Category Archives: Bergh Apton Community Arts Trust

Creative peace in a spaceship

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“For a while there I didn’t think I’d be able to get my spaceship to work.” I said to Maisie.

This of course implied that I had, in the end, gotten my spaceship to work… and indeed I had. How pleasing!

I had attended the lantern making workshop arranged by BACAT and facilitated by Kate Munro, who charmingly enthused us about the task at hand. Fifteen people were welcomed with a cup of coffee and a place at a table covered in plastic sheet.

Those who had expressed an interest had been asked to think of something to make at the workshop, and after Kate explained the technique of bending the willow twigs that she had bought along (pre-soaked); we set to our plans.

A quiet buzz of activity consumed the room, in the same way that a room falls silent of conversation at the start of a good meal. Silent apart from the chink of cutlery and china; or in this case the sound of ripping masking tape. Occasional muttered apologies could also be heard as the springy willow inadvertently clips your neighbour around the ear.

We all did our thing, in studied concentration, punctuated by brief words of encouragement by Kate or the other er luminaries.

Around lunch time we reluctantly left our work to eat a baked spud, some cheeses and an inventive salad including nuts and berries. Delicious!

More peace and quiet while we worked on our projects and then tea and a sticky bun.

Then time to go… five hours had whizzed past and we were able to pack our, mostly finished, slightly sticky lanterns into our cars. They were bigger than planned – so some of us had to walk home.

If you haven’t attended one of the many workshops organised by BACAT, I encourage you to do so. From a personal perspective; approaching the day it seemed like a lot of time away from getting necessary chores done. At the end of the day I felt tired, peaceful and satisfied… which is pretty much as good as it gets.

…And the plans for a flying saucer space ship had worked!

Midwinter Dreaming – DVD

Midwinter Dreaming

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Midwinter Dreaming has been captured for posterity.

Banjo Films have done wonders filming the Play for Candlemas in the February darkness.

The DVDs have virtually sold out

BUT a very few are left in stock.

Do order a copy to re-experience the magic of the performances.

Only £12.50 + £1.50 P&P

Cheques please ifo BACAT, to Christopher Meynell at BA Hall, Norwich, Norfolk NR15 1AX

Have a look at the Youtube Trailer here.

‘…. the play’s the thing’

The mechanistic world of twenty first century Britain where we shape our environment to suit us is superimposed on a far, far older layer of being. Now and again a wild and wet winter and even the turbulent world itself cuts us down to size and we wake up to older rhythms of season and time. We live in a richly layered island, an ancient kingdom marinated in ritual and rhyme, song and story which wind the clock of the year. In 2012 we were host to the Olympic Games and the Opening Ceremony, ‘Isles of Wonder’ tapped into this rich seam and in 2016 we did the same with ‘Midwinter Dreaming’.
Over the last twenty or so years ‘Bergh Apton’ has become a brand, a brand associated with innovation, with events that inspire, interest and intrigue. We never set out to decide what to do next we wait for an idea to hatch in our imaginations and so with ‘Midwinter Dreaming.
It was deliberately entirely different to our last production, the Cycle of Mystery Plays, it would be staged in winter not summer, it would take place in one site and it was to be an experience as well. ‘So along comes BACAT with an event rooted in the year’s cycle, with an eye to the past but not thoughtlessly re-enacting it, instead creatively reinventing, a new thing in fact that had a community life spanning half a year with scores of people happily and creatively involved and whose actual telling covered all these wonderful performance areas, costume, decoration, sculpture and light, a moving and involved audience, taste, fire, a surrounding sound and music, song, story, the spectacle of performance, humour and of course the underlying reality of the dark, the night, the cold and the enduring building itself.’
The call went to the Tribes of Ton and not only they but those of our closely related Tribes of Ham and Land responded and Tribes from far flung regions, the Nordovicians, Becclodians and Bungavians, a wide community has been created. It says much for us that the three professionals, well known nationally and internationally, were very willing to join in and work with us.
The play was written in discussions and writing sessions with Hugh Lupton, Mary Lovett created sublime music and singing with our musicians and singers and Charlotte Arculus taught us so much, she took a young idea, turned it inside out, shook it about and, between the three of them and us, we wove a magic, one little idea became a wonder to all who took part and who came to see it. It was not only us humans who created the magic but the time of the year, the season of Candlemas, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox and the ancient church itself, assured and reassuring.
‘…..so many people involved in so many different areas but all willingly going the same way. And it achieved what it set out to do, it marked the division of the winter from the days we inhabit now and it brought to life all those characters….the Wren Boys, the Bee-keeper, we could see and know Hugh’s mummers as individuals. Next winter I think we will miss not having it.’ The village website gives a selection of other comments from our audiences.
All those involved will be far too modest to acknowledge the huge amount of time and interest they gave so I have tried to blow the trumpet for them, they were wonderful.
A special mention to Chris Ellis, our new Rector. He arrived in an unknown parish to find a group of people he did not know had plans for an event he knew little about in the church. He was good humoured and allowed us more or less carte blanche to use the church as we needed, I take my hat off to him.
What’s next?

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Pat Mlejnecky

Midwinter Dreaming – Performance Pictures and Some Comments from BACAT’s Fan Club

24th January 2016

Just a quick one to say how much I enjoyed the performance; it truly was a wonderful cast and a superb performance by all involved. Good luck for the next two.
Avis J

Very Well Done to you all last night!
Thank you
Annie H

“we absolutely loved last night.. Good luck for the other performances. Wonderful start”
Anon

I thought it was brilliant, entrancing, captivating. I didn’t want it to end.
Dolores

Hello and a very big thank you to everyone involved in the preparation and performance of ‘Midwinter Dreaming’, which I attended yesterday evening, Sunday January 24th 2016. It was a most magical experience and a perfect way to enjoy winter – without all the hype that accompanies Christmas. I particularly enjoyed the music and singing, especially the earthy rhythm of the final song ‘I Sing Of A Mayden’. Coming from the gallery of the church, it was like being transported back 200 years. Please put my contact details on your website so that I can be alerted to any further events you are staging.
Diana D

an excellent production. I loved the Mechanicals.
Malcolm

I hope you don’t mind me emailing, but I forgot to fill in my questionnaire after the Play for Candlemas on Sunday. My friend and I came, knowing that it would be something special, but were so impressed by the whole . . . I can’t call it ‘performance’, that’s the wrong word, but the whole event, from start to finish, was spellbinding. The welcome in the marquee, the lantern-lit procession through the churchyard, the singing from the gallery as we entered, the gradual extinguishing of the candles to darkness, set such an atmosphere for the actual play.
The play itself was really emotional, and was so cleverly done; the story was woven through and we felt so involved with the characters. The music was brilliantly done, and had a real earthy quality to it, which complemented the play perfectly.
Such a talented group of villages you have!
Please pass on my thanks to everyone involved, and I hope the next two performances are as well-received, and as much fun as they appeared for the participants as well as the audience!
Best wishes,
Jane K.

Another thank you for the very magical evening at Midwinter Dreaming. We thought the evening totally brilliant. It was a privilege to have been present. We have a problem though. How do we describe it to all our friends? What was it?? The experience was wonderfully creative and so professionally presented. It was very special indeed, so be proud.
Colin & Annie, Walsingham
PM Replied “A Moment in Time!”

We loved it all. There was so much in the Play. We got so much for our money. Worth every bit of £10.00
Anon

As a member of the singers the only thing I shall miss is knowing just how we singers and musicians sound . . . but shall be satisfied with the glowing comments of those who have heard us. All else about “Midwinter Dreaming” is, indeed, dreamy! That we modest Norfolk countryfolk can, in our various contributions and with our varying talents, create such a wonderful evening, and put into our memory boxes such visions, is extraordinary.

I did find it quite hard, at some points when we were called on to sing, to shake off emotional involvement with the story and focus on performance as a singer.

Thanks to all the creative people involved for giving the rest of us the platform on which to perform in whatever way we have performed. What giants for a night we became, we players, rude mechanicals, musicians, singers, makers of lanterns and candleholders and concocters of Wassail!
John L

The musical arrangement of Acapella voices was phenomenally exquisite Mary Lovett (Boo Ya)! Thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience especially the lanterns & the Green Man – quite magical.‬
Andi M

30th January 2016

What a fantastic evening last night.
Feedback from friends, “The play was great, very atmospheric. Loved all the lighting effects. The handing out of the box of treats was great too. You all did Bergh Apton proud’. Jane

Brilliant, inspiring, touch of humour, Christ above all the/and ancient ritual. Dawn R

Wonderful, mystic and magical. Sue T

From the moment we arrived at the village hall I was impressed with the organisation of this event. How do you manage to plan such a complex event, get so many wonderful volunteers to help and make it run so smoothly? There were so many elements to the event it is hard to praise it highly enough. I loved the depth that was achieved using so many media. The wassail marquee wasn’t just a tent in the churchyard it was transformed into a mysterious, intriguing but welcoming place with fabulous lanterns and birdsong. Similarly the play wasn’t just a play with some singing and lighting effects it was a captivating experience absolutely crammed full of creative ideas, sights, sounds, stories, songs and humour. Cleverly staged, the semi-darkness allowed a host of effects that amazed – especially the bee sequence. The actors created just the right mix of credibility and incredibility and held us engaged the whole way through. The lovely music and singing was a perfect fit and was integrated so well that there was no feeling of awkward interlude you sometimes get when music is interspersed with dramatic action. The story was so well crafted that combining the Christian and earlier Pagan traditions seemed natural. The talents and skills on display were very impressive throughout. The quality of the whole production, while retaining a rustic handcrafted style, delivered real depth of meaning and created a really high quality experience that we won’t forget in a hurry. Congratulations and thanks to everyone who made this an unforgettable occasion.
I look forward to the next event you tackle!
Marya P

Hello – just to say: “Hearty Congratulations” to all involved with ‘Midwinter Dreaming’. Superbly done, well organised, imaginative but respectful of traditions, including Christian ones. A lovely occasion on a lovely evening.
Please add me to your mailing list,
Richard M, Norwich

I thought it was quite wonderful and magical and nothing like the sort of event you would expect from a village hall event.
Jenny L

Well done, all of you! An excellent evening. Perfect weather, cold, clear, & lovely. Thank you to everyone involve, looking forward to next production ! Frances M, Norwich

I was approached by the effervescent Christopher Meynell and sometime around May last year. He asked if I would be the Musical Director for this project. At the time all I knew was that Hugh Lupton was leading some writing workshops and that Charlotte Arculus was going to Direct the play. Well those two being involved sealed the deal for me. I have worked with Hugh once before on the Mystery Plays and Charlotte is a much loved friend and colleague.
Our first meeting was in Christopher’s beautiful garden where I first met Pat Mlejnesky who is a fine woman and force of nature! Anyone with a quarter of her drive and energy would be doing ok! We talked about ideas,logistics, music and mine and Charlotte’s concern of their being enough rehearsal time built it!
After a Saturday workshop in Bergh Apton, a cast was born. Actors, Rude Mechanicals a Choir and Musicians. All who gave up their time to attend rehearsals, go to the various making workshops. Lanterns, clay bird candle holders and props. All very committed and it turns out, excellent at taking direction.
Charlotte Arculus is so unique in her approach and she has realised the vision of the writers in a way that I don’t think any of them would have expected. The cast and crew have been so open to Charlottes ideas and direction, it has been a pleasure to witness.
For my part I was extremely fortunate to have some excellent musicians on board. Warwick Bradshaw (Violin and Hurdy Gurdy) Brigitta Campbell, (Violin and descant Recorder) John Sayer (Bouzouki) Linda Alden (Bodran).
A choir of nineteen who were all such amazingly good sports, some of them ended up being part of the action on stage, having not signed up for that, it was all taken in the collective stride and they got on with it! Much the same as them having to adjust to being conducted in the dark.
This project is Community Theatre at its best, a way of including so many people who didn’t necessarily want to act on stage, but could contribute in one way or another to make something truly magical in the process as well as the end product.
The organisation, logistics planning and thought behind this production is an enormous task and BACAT have done a wonderful job.
I have loved working on this project so much and so pleased that I was asked to be involved. I am writing this with one performance left to go. I will be genuinely sad for it to be at an end. But without endings, there can be no new beginnings.
Thank you everyone for you time, commitment and creativity it has been such a pleasure.
Mary Lovett – Full Colour Music

Christopher M
You fail to mention a key ingredient in this BA (Bake Arf) mix!
YOU, MARY.
Your joie de vivre, encouragement and all round bounce have contributed hugely to the success of Midwinter Dreaming. You have pulled together a disparate (but enthusiastic) group of individuals and created from their vocal & musical instruments a really lovely sound that entrances all who hear it. And even the shingles didn’t matter. Brilliant! Thank you, Mary
One more comment:
Lest anyone thinks it is a two man band in organizing ‘Midwinter Dreaming’ it has been very much a team effort. Ben Turner, Kevin Parfitt, Peter Lyle and Steve Mitchell also have given an enormous amount of time, they are efficient and hard working and without them ‘midwinter dreaming’ would have sunk without trace!

This was a wonderful, entertaining hugely enjoyable event. Loved the torches/marquee/procession/sounds. So fantastic to be in the church with so little light. Felt as though I could have been in mediaeval times! Really well done – thank you!
Jessica J

Saw the Play on 30th January. A fantastic mediaeval production. Congratulations to everybody. Couldn’t have been any better; a stimulating experience throughout. Loved the use of light & shade. Music most evocative.
Marion F

6th Feb 2016

I loved so much of the evening, that essential mixture of sacred and profane whereby each reinforces the other, the wonderful lanterns and light effects, the darkness, the singing from the gallery, the timeless sense of community. But what moved me particularly was the way in which the play brought the church so vibrantly alive. 90 % of the times that I walk into a church, it is completely empty. Tonight was an experience at the opposite end of the spectrum, the church was woken up, the walls spoke, the gallery vibrated.
Liz Mc

May I add my voice to those already heard and say what a privilege it has been to see all three performances and enjoy the talent, atmosphere, commitment, music, singing and storytelling. I am delighted to see the church building, so long a place for religious drama, being used to tell a tale ‘as old as it’s new’.
Thank you for a special experience.
Chris E

Just a note to say how much I enjoyed last night’s performance of Midwinter Dreaming.
It hit just the right note… the ritual anarchy of English folk tradition meeting the mysteries of the gold frankincense & myrrh.
It was funny and moving… and the laughter opened the audience to something deeper.
It looked wonderful. The whole church came alive. In fact, to me it felt like what the church experience should be.
The music coming from the West Gallery was spot on. And a lovely sense of everyone enjoying themselves.
I felt you’d taken the script and run with it – well done all!
What next?
x Hugh L

it has just occurred to me that all the praise so far for producing such a magical* and wonderful* experience has been given, quite rightly to those taking part, but did not time and place contribute too? the size of the church limited the number of an audience and think that with a bigger space and a bigger audience we would have lost that feeling of enclosure in a magiced place, lost the intimacy of a group sharing of something out of this world. In the soaring space of the chancel we had shadows of the players, the first time I saw the church turned into an orchard, the great trellis of branches and fruit I shall never forget, the ghostly gothic mad bride of a beekeeper walking down the aisle only worked because of the darkness of this time of the year. The swarm of ‘bees’ was only possible while a dark evening pressed against the windows. The music coming from the gallery and those unseen voices added to the mystery. The putting out of the candles and the darkness and silence descending is something I think few people experience nowadays. The fires and lanterns acted as magnets and within the darkness the looming shadow of the church. The lantern procession into the unknown was only possible because of the time of the year and the church itself. Here’s to the church and candlemas.
*used time and time again, quite understandable. Pat M
When writing that time and place also had their part in making Midwinter Dreaming what it was i should have also said how lucky we were to have Chris Ellis. To accept a living and to find that a bunch of unknown people already had plans to put on some unknown event that was to be performed in the dark and much was to be made of shadows and rude mechanicals creeping about and to be accepting of this is quite something. He allowed us to leave all our stuff in his vestry and in the kitchen. I am sure being in industry and out in the wicked world with all its quirks and foibles is invaluable to anyone in his job. While you are drinking to place and time raise your glass to the vicar as well. PM

Thank you and all those behind the scenes, for such a wonderful event. I’ve so enjoyed being a part of it!
All the best Birgitta C

Thank YOU for bringing it all together. It was a wonderful experience.
What’s next? I assume you’re working on it already. Fond memories, Anna G

Have to echo Anna’s sentiments. Thank you Christopher, Pat, Kevin, Peter et
al. It was great to be part of it Shirley R

And THANK YOU to everyone responsible for creating and organising it. It was a pleasure and an honour to be part of it. Kind Regards Jane & John xx

The whole evening was very magical and we felt part of something very special. There was a harmony to everything, all the actors, musicians, singers and the rude mechanicals were excellent. Some parts were inspirational.
Georgina W

I was lucky to sit near the front and to feel the spine tingling eye contact of the word perfect holly man. It was really something to have experienced. So was the whole evening. Ted H

Came all the way from France met up with daughters from Brighton and Cambridge. One of daughters said it was one of the two best shows she had ever seen and she had paid over £100 to see the other one!
We all thought that it was the perfect piece of theatre. We were all, at various points, in wonder, sorrow, laughter, inspiration and we were so lucky to literally get front row seats. We are all joiner-inners, clapping, singing, buzzing…. Zoe G

I so enjoyed seeing the lovely lanterns that had been created for the Midwinter Dreaming were similar to the one I created at the work shop last year.
A rather mystified “real” owl, gave its plaintive cry from the woods beyond the church in response to the gaggle of birds twittering on the recording in the tent where the audience were gathering in the warm winter evening by the glow of fire baskets waiting for their entry into the Church
To sit in the dark and be surrounded by sounds and fleeting shadows without any notion of what was to take place made it all the more special for me. It will stay with me for a long time.
I was sorry you were not there but you all created something very special and may not be aware of the huge effect that it had on the audience. Ann B

I wanted to write and say how wonderful ‘Midwinter Dreaming’ was and congratulate the organization, writing, craft activities and especially the vision. I only hope you are having ideas for the next project.’ Sally M

Dear Pat, all the wonderful cast, the effervescent Charlotte, Mary, Hugh, the claymakers and lantern creators and all behind the scenes production team.
Thank you so much for a wonderful, magical evening that will stay long in our hearts and souls. We loved the tractor adventure, the wassail, your beautiful stories, the laughter and quiet resonance with our souls.
We eleven returned home warmed and delighted.
Thank you again. Till next time, Wassail! Natasha G

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Midwinter Dreaming – A Play For Candlemas 2016

Shadows, Silences, Songs, Sights, Flickering Lights, Fleeting Figures, Laughter & Ancient Stories Woven
in

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TICKETS

Please note that tickets are sold out for all three performances. The waiting list for returns has also been closed.

ALL TICKET HOLDERS

Please note that you should park at Bergh Apton Village Hall.
Our main car park is waterlogged, and so we have had to change plans.
You will be collected and bussed to the Church.
Please have your Ticket confirmation to show Reception.

Holly Man - FP

Facebook Photos

The Bramerton Group of Villages is at it again!!

Having created such a stir in 2014 with their Mystery Play Cycle, the call went out again. Nothing could hold back these intrepid inhabitants of Kirby Bedon, Surlingham, Framingham Pigot, Rockland, Ashby and of course, The Tribes of Ton – Alpington, Yelverton, Bergh Apton, Thurton, Bramerton, Hellington, Carleton & Claxton. The call was answered. Some forty people are involved in script writing, acting, singing, music making, rude mechanicallising, creating props and costumes and general dogsbodying.

So DO come to see what they have all been working at – for your enjoyment.

Darkness is dispersed. Light takes over. The sounds of summer in winter’s depths. Ancient tales, woven together produce an enchanting evening. A band of motley clothed players. Mediaeval rhymes spun into musical cloth. Scarcely visible musicians. A hive of activity.

All this with Wassailing and Cutty Wren hunting and, of course, the unexpected. All to celebrate the coming of the Light and Candlemas. This is Midwinter Dreaming.

Along the way we have been helped by a significant contribution from the international writer and story-teller, Hugh Lupton. And for the performance, Charlotte Arculus, the Director and Mary Lovett, Musical Director have added innovation, drama and song transforming the play into an atmospheric experience. Candlemas is a Festival of Light. The Light of the World has arrived and Spring is around the corner as the Sun brings much needed warmth.

There are three performances of Midwinter Dreaming.

The audience is asked to arrive at 6.30pm to drink Wassail to the performance, refresh and warm themselves before joining a Lantern led procession to Bergh Apton church, darkened, for the mysteries to unfold.

This is a Bergh Apton Community Arts Production. This production would not have been possible without BACAT’s support.

It will be a special experience.
It will carry everyone from deepest, darkest, coldest winter towards the delights of spring and summer, picking up where the Christmas Story might have gone and taking us all into the Light.

Performances take place on January 24th & 30th & February 6th.

For more information please send an email to:
midwinterdreaming@yahoo.co.uk

REHEARSALS

Singing Rehearsals

Acting Rehearsals

WORKSHOPS FOR THIS PLAY:

1) Making stars from reeds- 14 November 2015

2) Lantern Making Workshop – 10 October 2015

3) Making Candlesticks Workshop – 21 November 2015

The Midnight Folk

The First Player:

In the lean hours Fox trots among the untamed trees. He follows a path which sneaks through the wood, a narrow path made by hoof, paw and claw. Time is his own, he comes and goes unbidden. Thorn tipped claws and polished ears that take soundings, eyes full of moonlight so they shine silver. Tree shadows net him and he becomes a creature of leaves and light. Then he is gone in a shiver of air, a trick from Night’s sleeve.

The Second Player:

Scissored from darkness, the bat banks and glides, flickering to and fro. He knows the songs of sight in the night. He stole the night from the birds and learned its secrets, its mysteries. For a moment he is fixed in the moonlight and then flings back into the dark.

The Third Player:

What does the owl see as he stares from his perch searching the shadows? What will the darkness reveal? What does he hear? A wood mouse’s footfall, a scurrying shrew? What does he sense? A vole rustling in a tent of grass? His silent wingbeat has its own music, his husky hoot questions the darkness and rattles the bones and quickens the heartbeat of the soon-to-be-dead. With solemn deliberation he swoops up and away, a haunting presence.

The Fourth Player:

The fire filled stars look down on Brock, the bear of the woods, of ancient lineage, masked, a dusky lord. On a bank among a straggle of ferns, woodsage and foxglove all bound about with honeysuckle and a bony trellis of ivy he has mined shafts with his scimitar claws. Shafts which lead to halls, galleries and chambers, he has raised ramparts and dug ditches. He stands and considers, his is an old magic. For a whispered spell, a ceremonial summoning, he may pause in the dappled light, turn and honour you, in slow ritual with a look from his moon filled

The Fifth Players:

Enter Night’s Cinderellas, the Forester, the Old Lady, the Footman, the Emperor, the Tiger and the Elephant, moths as silent as shadows, settling as dust on late blooming honeysuckle, last bells of foxgloves and purple cockades of thistle. With wings closed and coloured like worthy fustian, sober tweed and stippled, striated, ringed and veined in pearl, umber, soot, clay and frost, forming constellations which flash secret messages. They open like a patterned fan to show underskirts of seaweed green, berry bright red, saffron yellow and mauve as pigeon’s neck feathers.

Pat Mlejnecky

the hours of the day

COUNTRY DIARY

The quiet hours which, when counted on Time’s abacus add to weeks, months, years and the circling seasons. It is easy to miss magic moments in the business of life.

THE HOURS OF THE DAY

Vigil and Lauds

0300

Daylight is beginning and the waning moon, that thief of the sun’s light, is dimming and looks like well thumbed glass. The Moon Spinners are busy, they are sea spirits who walk the shores of the earth. They each have a spindle and onto these they spin the milk white moonlight. Their task is to see the world has its hours of darkness so they spin the moon out of the sky like white wool. As night follows night the moon’s light wanes and at last its light is gone, the world has darkness and rest and creatures are safe from the hunter. On the darkest night the sea spirits take their spindles to where the sea lips the land to wash their wool. As it slips from the spindle it unravels in long ripples of light and see, there is the moon, at first just a thin thread of light. When all the wool is washed and is a white ball in the sky then, once more, the Moon Spinners start to wind its light onto their spindles until the night becomes safe once more for all hunted creatures.

Prime

0600

The dog roses are in flower, Keats’ sweet ‘eglantine’ in his ‘Ode to the Nightingale’. This ancient riddle is about the dog rose, can you guess why?

We are five brothers at the same time born

Two of us have beards, by two no beards are worn

While one, lest he should give his brothers pain

Hath one side bearded and the other plain.

Terce

0900

Wood pigeons have learned how to use my bird feeders and I watch them bumbling about, huffing and puffing. Many people dismiss pigeons out of hand because they are everywhere and some, who know no better, refer to them as ‘flying rats’ but both these creatures thrive because of our dirty, careless ways, they reflect our untidiness, our waste and mess back to us. This country is known as ‘the dirty man of Europe’. Pigeons who ‘served’ with the RAF in wartime were the first recipients of the Dickin Medal, the Victoria Cross for animals. They are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds in the world and are one of only six species with the ability to recognise themselves in a mirror. The passenger pigeon was one of the most numerous birds in the world until we killed every one.

Sext

Noon

Bombus drones round the garden, she takes centre stage on a rose, she is laden with bags of gold. In a painting of Napoleon his red velvet Coronation robes are embroidered with golden bees and so is the carpet he stands on. At the moment of Christ’s birth the story tells the bees deep in their hives hummed the ‘Old Hundreth’. In Somerset there is still someone who makes the straw skeps that bees used to be kept in. She says it is a natural shape which mimic the hollows in trees that bees would naturally use and she thinks the honey has a better flavour, it still retains grains of pollen.

None

1500

He may have been able to juggle the full moon on one finger but I have magic too. I stare up to the sky hoping to see a buzzard and lo and behold, church steeple high, there is one, he glides in slow lazy circles and a second one joins and yet a third, kitelike in the sky, strong magic! Cirrus clouds echo their wing patterns. What does their fierce, meditative gaze see, how do they map the land so far beneath? Like dowsers, do they sense underground rivers, the caves like honeycombs beneath our feet? Slowly, effortlessly they glide away using the power of the wind with hardly a wing beat and I watch their pathway through the sky.

Vespers

1800

The heat of the day is cooling but ringlet butterflies are out and about still dancing their summer rituals over the seeded grasses. Their wings are a browny grey with constellations of rings and dots in yellow and black on the upperside and when in flight these flash mysterious text messages to each other.

Compline

2100

Dusk breathes shadows and darkness to web the trees. A tawny owl’s voice gathers the night, I hear but cannot see him, his feathered cloak makes him invisible. The old Gaelic prayer, ‘God send us all another day.’

Pat Mlejnecky

Full Moon In April

The full moon of April and its light, as always, witches the night.  I remember, on such a night as this, quite some years ago now, another April, when Spring had spelled the plum and cherry trees and each arm of which  was ruffed with white blossom. We stood under these trees and in the soft stir of air it snowed petals. The full moon sailed into sight and he points and, for a long moment, the moon seems balanced on his pointing finger. Masked by shifting shadows and lit by the moon’s quiet light he becomes a magician of the night.

In this country we see the Man in the Moon but in other countries they see, not a man but a hare and here is how this happened.

Prince Siddhartha left his kingdom in the skies and lived on earth and, because of his wisdom, he became called Buddha which means ‘enlightened’. He lived as a hermit and once he met an animal whose kindness was an example to both Gods and Men. The Lord Buddha was sitting in the shade of a banyan tree on the edge of a forest. The sun poured its golden light through the leaves like milk into a cup. He had lit a fire and his pot of water was boiling but, alas, he had nothing to put in it to make a meal. A jay, war painted with blue barred wings, flew by with a spray of little dark cherries, dark as night, in its beak and let them drop into the pot. A monkey swung down and tossed a handful of beans in and a cobra with hooded head brought spices, cumin, coriander and cayenne. A wild dog sneaked near and splashed a stolen egg into the boiling water. Next came a little hare and he spoke to the Buddha,

‘You have the look of a good and gracious man but also that of a hungry one.’

‘That is quite true my long eared friend,’ replied the Buddha, ‘but my friends are helping me.’

‘I have nothing but myself O Lord Buddha. Enjoy your meal.’

With that the little hare leaped into the pot of boiling water. Down he went and the water hissed, steamed and bubbled but to the hare it felt cool like soft refreshing rain. With the speed of a striking hawk the Buddha snatched the hare from the pot.

‘Those who give of themselves little Leaper-in-the-Corn are greatly blessed, it is the greatest gift of all. You will live for ever Little-Racer-Round-the-Field to dance for joy on the moon.’

Then the Buddha hurled the hare up, up and up till he landed on the moon. Now all of us in this world can look up at night and see the Buddha’s friend, the little hare and remember his generosity and nobleness.

 

Here’s hoping that those people who think it legitimate sport to hunt and harry the hare will be equally generous and merciful.
Pat Mlejnecky